Literature for Children: Contemporary Criticism

By Peter Hunt | Go to book overview
Save to active project



One of the most useful insights of modern criticism has been that no work, even the most apparently simple book for children, can be innocent of some ideological freight. As James Watson, a writer whose novels confront serious political issues, has observed: 'The dominant discourses of our time are rarely challenged, so much so that we are often in danger of forgetting that alternative discourses even exist' (Watson 1986:70).

In children's literature, where there is a very obvious power relationship between writer and reader, and where writers and publishers are constrained and influenced by many pressure groups, this is a particularly emotive issue. As a result, work in this area has tended to be polemic (Dixon 1977; Leeson 1985), or to address specific issues such as censorship or covert racialism (Moore and MacCann 1986). Theoretical explorations are rather rarer, and as late as 1985 it was possible for Children's Literature in Education to publish an essay on political ideologies in literature for children that began by spelling out what might now seem to be obvious.

Like other writers, authors of children's books are inescapably influenced by their views and assumptions when selecting what goes into the work (and what does not), when developing plot and character, determining the nature of conflicts and their resolutions, casting and depicting heroes and villains, evoking readers' emotional responses, eliciting readers' judgments, finding ways to illustrate their themes, and pointing morals. The books thus express their authors' personal ideologies (whether consciously or unconsciously, openly or indirectly). To publish books which express one's ideology is in essence to promulgate one's values. To promulgate one's values by sending a potentially influential book into public arenas already bristling with divergent, competing, and


Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this page

Cited page

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Literature for Children: Contemporary Criticism


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 213

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?